International Womens’ Day

On the 8th March International Womens’ Day (IWD) is celebrated with a variety of events around the world.

Women have made extraordinary contributions to the design industry, some have become household names and others are still lesser known. This year the Society is celebrating IWD by sharing some of the most iconic women in design, as chosen by CSD members.

We asked our members who has inspired them during their careers and who they believe is the most iconic female designer to date.

Follow our campaign on twitter and instagram and let us know which women in design have inspired you.

Maggie Law MCSD, Interior Design

“I was most inspired by artists such as Rebecca Horn, Tracey Emin and Dame Vivienne Westwood DBE for their design approach of ‘why?’ and ‘how?’ which makes us look at everyday objects in a fresh light. You don’t have to like every piece they create but the definitely make you think twice!”

“…also Polly Dickens, now the creative director for Habitat, who just has a great eye for detail and a wonderful philosophy and Ms Chanel for her inspirational tenacity and timeless style.”


Lois Blackhurst MCSD, Graphic Design

“One woman who has inspired me during my career is the illustrator Marion Deuchars. I attended a talk by her in 2013 where she discussed having a ‘play desk’ of pens, ink, paint and paper and the reasons why every designer should have one. It reminded me of the importance of going back to basics to really free up creativity. I left the talk excited and energised, remembering why I love design so much – and that with a pen and paper anything is possible!”

“For me the most iconic female designer is the British typographer and graphic designer Margaret Calvert. From collaborating on the design of the road signage system for new motorways in the 1950s, followed by a look at the whole national network of roads signs, to more recently her New Transport font being used for the ‪ website. They really are great examples of effective graphic design that are all around us everyday without us even realising it.”

Peta Miller FCSD, Graphic Design

“The female designer who has consistently inspired me since art college days is Paula Scher from Pentagram. I admire her ideas-based approach to branding, in particular the MoMA identity system. Her simple, sometimes witty concepts have influenced by own design thinking.”


Sara Harraway MCSD, Interior Design

“In truth it was my male colleagues that have been my greatest inspiration. When I joined the industry in the mid 90s there were still few women in construction and for a period I was the only professional woman in the practice. It was my colleagues that mentored me and augmented the skills I’d gained through my degree. Now, it’s our expanding team of talented interior designers with their seemingly effortless creativity.”

“For me the most iconic female designers are Ray Eames certainly and undoubtedly Dame Zaha Hadid.”

Holly Littlejohn MCSD, Graphic Design

“I’ve always been fascinated by Hilla Becher, who was an artist and photographer who worked together with her husband. Her ‘documentary’ style of photography, focusing on industrial buildings and structure influenced a lot of my work during university. Most recently I have discovered Vivian Maier, an American street photographer – who has a similar documentary style.”
“In terms of icons, I think that women in fashion have had the most far reaching influence. I would say: Coco Chanel or Dame Vivienne Westwood DBE, although not particularly my favourites their influence on not only fashion but women in general is vast.”

Helene Berman MCSD, Fashion Design

“I have been inspired by many women over the course of my career, some in fashion some in business but most simply in life. One of the most inspirational was Valerie Couldrige who was my tutor and mentor whilst I was studying Fashion at Harrow College of Art. Later on whilst working as a consultant for Harvey Nichols I was fortunate enough to work along side the amazing Amanda Verdan, who at the time was head of womenswear. She was a true professional.”

“Vintage photography has always been a huge source of inspiration for my work. Photographers such as Lillian Bassman, who photographed incredible women wearing incredible clothes. The most iconic female designer, for me it has to be Coco Chanel, although Schiaparelli was pretty deft too!”


Michelle McGibbon MCSD, Graphic Design

“The woman who has most inspired me is Dame Barbara Hepworth DBE, although her discipline is completely different to mine I admire the way that she broke through in what was a male dominated world, at the time when women had only just been given the vote. Not only that but many of her sculptures still look contemporary even today nearly 80 years on. Although our disciplines are very different I really admire her approach and success!”

“I think the most iconic designer is Vivienne Westwood, again due to the longevity of her career, not to everyone’s taste but her style is certainly well known.”